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Healthy Gums May Prevent Heart Disease

Update Date: Nov 02, 2013 04:56 PM EDT

Keeping gums healthy could help in the prevention of heart disease according to a new study. 

"These results are important because atherosclerosis progressed in parallel with both clinical periodontal disease and the bacterial profiles in the gums," Moïse Desvarieux, MD, PhD, lead author of the paper and associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, said in a news release. "This is the most direct evidence yet that modifying the periodontal bacterial profile could play a role in preventing or slowing both diseases."

According to the Mailman School, "Artherosclerosis, or the narrowing of arteries through the build-up of plaque, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and death."

For the study, researchers examined 420 adults from Northern Manhattan for periodontal infection. About 5,008 plaque samples were taken from several teeth, beneath the gum and were then examined for bacteria that could cause periodontal disease. 

"Fluid around the gums was sampled to assess levels of Interleukin-1β, a marker of inflammation," reported Mailman. "Atherosclerosis in both carotid arteries was measured using high-resolution ultrasound."

Researchers followed up with the participants for three years and found that taking care of your gums, by flossing and brushing your teeth was linked to a reduction of bacteria known to flare periodontal disease.

The results were adjusted according to the body mass index, cholesterol levels, diabetes or smoking status of the person. 

"It is critical that we continue to follow these patients to see if the relationship between periodontal infections and atherosclerosis carries over to clinical events like heart attack and stroke and test if modifying the periodontal flora will slow the progression of atherosclerosis," said Dr. Desvarieux. 

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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